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GUEST COLUMN

Libraries are ongoing investment in the future of our children, nation

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 10:07 am

National Library Week will be observed April 10-16. This year's theme is “Create Your Own Story @ Your Library.”

First sponsored in 1958 by the American Library Association, the weeklong commemoration also celebrates National Library Workers Day, honoring librarians, support staff and others whose contributions enrich patrons' lives; National Bookmobile Day; and Support Teen Literature Day.

Since 1985, America also has acknowledged April as School Library Month.

And while this might appear an unseemly amount of annual observations for one entity, no other public facility is more deserving –– or more in need of your support.

Loosely defined as a room or institution where books are stored or kept, a library is much more than a bricks-and-mortar repository of volumes.

Libraries add prestige, culture and stability, defining a neighborhood, a community and a nation. Few inner cities have such institutions, yet few areas could better profit from these sanctums of learning and empowerment.

A library card offers a window to a special world, a passport to a golden odyssey. A document that allows us, at little or no cost, access to books new, old and used. And in an increasingly electronically oriented world, books remain the only medium that challenges us to use our imaginations; the only learning tool that remains a “warm fuzzy,” a personal, hands-on, do-it-yourself road map for our lives.

But libraries are about more than books. They impart knowledge through magazines, newspapers, periodicals, reference materials, exhibits, informative/instructional films and computer programs. They provide classes for the illiterate along with materials on English as a second language, ensuring future generations of readers.

My grandmother taught me to read when I was 4. I literally grew up at the Shawnee Branch of the Allen County Public Library. As a young mother, I introduced my three sons to the Tecumseh Branch, where they ate green eggs and ham with Dr. Seuss, climbed trees with Christopher Robin and wondered just how the Grinch stole Christmas

Throughout my lifetime, I've availed myself of libraries in Chicago, Orlando and Central Florida.

Since my 2003 return to Fort Wayne from the Sunshine State, I've become a regular at the Waynedale branch, and I applaud ACPL's website — acpl.lib.in.us/ — which users can browse while also reserving and renewing books.

I've maintained a relationship with the Shawnee Branch, enlarged and relocated decades ago, and regularly visit the recently renovated main facility (it boasts, among other things, the nation's second-largest genealogy center).

Whatever their location, no matter their size, libraries open eyes and unlock minds. They change lives, broaden existing horizons, and create new worlds, empowering those willing to enter therein.

They enable us to write our own stories.

Please invest in our children's –– our nation's –– future by investing in your local library, its groups and activities. Nowhere else will you receive so much for so little. And enrich your life at the same time.

For more information, go to ala.org/ala/conferencesevents/celebrationweeks/natlibrary-week/index.cfm.

CJ Woodring is a local freelance writer and editor.